- a state, process, or instance of combustion in which fuel or other material is ignited and combined with oxygen, giving off light, heat, and flame.
- a burning mass of material, as on a hearth or in a furnace.
- the destructive burning of a building, town, forest, etc.; conflagration.
- heat used for cooking, especially the lighted burner of a stove: Put the kettle on the fire.
- Greek fire.
- flashing light; luminous appearance.
- brilliance, as of a gem.
- burning passion; excitement or enthusiasm; ardor.
- liveliness of imagination.
- fever or inflammation.
- severe trial or trouble; ordeal.
- exposure to fire as a means of torture or ordeal.
- strength, as of an alcoholic beverage.
- a spark or sparks.
- the discharge of firearms: enemy fire.
- the effect of firing military weapons: to pour fire upon the enemy.
- British. a gas or electric heater used for heating a room.
- Literary. a luminous object, as a star: heavenly fires.
verb (used with object), fired, fir·ing.
- to set on fire.
- to supply with fuel; attend to the fire of: They fired the boiler.
- to expose to the action of fire; subject to heat.
- to apply heat to in a kiln for baking or glazing; burn.
- to heat very slowly for the purpose of drying, as tea.
- to inflame, as with passion; fill with ardor.
- to inspire.
- to light or cause to glow as if on fire.
- to discharge (a gun).
- to project (a bullet or the like) by or as if by discharging from a gun.
- to subject to explosion or explosive force, as a mine.
- to hurl; throw: to fire a stone through a window.
- to dismiss from a job.
- Veterinary Medicine. to apply a heated iron to (the skin) in order to create a local inflammation of the superficial structures, with the intention of favorably affecting deeper inflammatory processes.
- to drive out or away by or as by fire.
verb (used without object), fired, fir·ing.
- to take fire; be kindled.
- to glow as if on fire.
- to become inflamed with passion; become excited.
- to shoot, as a gun.
- to discharge a gun: to fire at a fleeing enemy.
- to hurl a projectile.
- Music. to ring the bells of a chime all at once.
- (of plant leaves) to turn yellow or brown before the plant matures.
- (of an internal-combustion engine) to cause ignition of the air-fuel mixture in a cylinder or cylinders.
- (of a nerve cell) to discharge an electric impulse.
- fire away, Informal. to begin to talk and continue without slackening, as to ask a series of questions: The reporters fired away at the president.
- fire off,
- to discharge (as weapons, ammunition, etc.): Police fired off canisters of tear gas.
- to write and send hurriedly: She fired off an angry letter to her congressman.
- between two fires, under physical or verbal attack from two or more sides simultaneously: The senator is between two fires because of his stand on the bill.
- build a fire under, Informal. to cause or urge to take action, make a decision quickly, or work faster: If somebody doesn’t build a fire under that committee, it will never reach a decision.
- catch fire,
- Also catch on fire.to become ignited; burn: The sofa caught fire from a lighted cigarette.
- to create enthusiasm: His new book did not catch fire among his followers.
- fight fire with fire, to use the same tactics as one’s opponent; return like for like.
- go through fire and water, to brave any danger or endure any trial: He said he would go through fire and water to win her hand.
- hang fire,
- to be delayed in exploding, or fail to explode.
- to be undecided, postponed, or delayed: The new housing project is hanging fire because of concerted opposition.
- miss fire,
- to fail to explode or discharge, as a firearm.
- to fail to produce the desired effect; be unsuccessful: He repeated the joke, but it missed fire the second time.
- on fire,
- ignited; burning; afire.
- eager; ardent; zealous: They were on fire to prove themselves in competition.
- play with fire, to trifle with a serious or dangerous matter: He didn’t realize that insulting the border guards was playing with fire.
- set fire to,
- to cause to burn; ignite.
- to excite; arouse; inflame: The painting set fire to the composer’s imagination.
Also set on fire.
- take fire,
- to become ignited; burn.
- to become inspired with enthusiasm or zeal: Everyone who heard him speak immediately took fire.
- under fire,
- under attack, especially by military forces.
- under censure or criticism: The school administration is under fire for its policies.
- the state of combustion in which inflammable material burns, producing heat, flames, and often smoke
- a mass of burning coal, wood, etc, used esp in a hearth to heat a room
- (in combination)firewood; firelighter
- a destructive conflagration, as of a forest, building, etc
- a device for heating a room, etc
- something resembling a fire in light or brilliancea diamond’s fire
- a flash or spark of or as if of fire
- the act of discharging weapons, artillery, etc
- the shells, etc, fired
- a burst or rapid volleya fire of questions
- intense passion; ardour
- liveliness, as of imagination, thought, etc
- a burning sensation sometimes produced by drinking strong alcoholic liquor
- fever and inflammation
- a severe trial or torment (esp in the phrase go through fire and water)
- catch fire to ignite
- draw someone’s fire to attract the criticism or censure of someone
- hang fire
- to delay firing
- to delay or be delayed
- no smoke without fire the evidence strongly suggests something has indeed happened
- on fire
- in a state of ignition
- ardent or eager
- informalplaying or performing at the height of one’s abilities
- open fire to start firing a gun, artillery, etc
- play with fire to be involved in something risky
- set fire to or set on fire British
- to ignite
- to arouse or excite
- set the world on fire, British set the Thames on fire or Scot set the heather on fire informal to cause a great sensation
- under fire being attacked, as by weapons or by harsh criticism
- (modifier) astrology of or relating to a group of three signs of the zodiac, Aries, Leo, and SagittariusCompare earth (def. 10), air (def. 20), water (def. 12)
- to discharge (a firearm or projectile) or (of a firearm, etc) to be discharged
- to detonate (an explosive charge or device) or (of such a charge or device) to be detonated
- (tr) informal to dismiss from employment
- (tr) ceramics to bake in a kiln to harden the clay, fix the glaze, etc
- to kindle or be kindled; ignite
- (tr) to provide with fueloil fires the heating system
- (intr) to tend a fire
- (tr) to subject to heat
- (tr) to heat slowly so as to dry
- (tr) to arouse to strong emotion
- to glow or cause to glow
- (intr) (of an internal-combustion engine) to ignite
- (intr) (of grain) to become blotchy or yellow before maturity
- vet science another word for cauterize
- (intr) Australian informal (of a sportsman, etc) to play well or with enthusiasm
- a cry to warn others of a fire
- the order to begin firing a gun, artillery, etc
c.1200, furen, figurative, “arouse, excite;” literal sense of “set fire to” is from late 14c., from fire (n.). The Old English verb fyrian “to supply with fire” apparently did not survive into Middle English.
The sense of “sack, dismiss” is first recorded 1885 in American English (earlier “throw (someone) out” of some place, 1871), probably from a play on the two meanings of discharge: “to dismiss from a position,” and “to fire a gun,” fire in the second sense being from “set fire to gunpowder,” attested from 1520s. Of bricks, pottery, etc., from 1660s. Related: Fired; firing. Fired up “angry” is from 1824. Firing squad is attested from 1904.
Old English fyr, from Proto-Germanic *fuir (cf. Old Saxon and Old Frisian fiur, Old Norse fürr, Middle Dutch and Dutch vuur, Old High German fiur, German Feuer), from PIE *perjos, from root *paewr- (cf. Armenian hur “fire, torch,” Czech pyr “hot ashes,” Greek pyr, Umbrian pir, Sanskrit pu, Hittite pahhur “fire”).
Current spelling is attested as early as 1200, but did not fully displace Middle English fier (preserved in fiery) until c.1600.
PIE apparently had two roots for fire: *paewr- and *egni- (cf. Latin ignis). The former was “inanimate,” referring to fire as a substance, and the latter was “animate,” referring to it as a living force (see water).
Fire applied in English to passions, feelings, from mid-14c. Meaning “action of guns, etc.” is from 1580s. Firecracker is American English coinage for what is in England just cracker, but the U.S. word distinguishes it from the word meaning “biscuit.” Fire-engine attested from 1680s. The figurative expression play with fire “risk disaster” is from 1887; phrase where’s the fire? “what’s the hurry?” first recorded 1924.
- To generate an electrical impulse. Used of a neuron.
Combat an evil or negative circumstances by reacting in kind. For example, When the opposition began a smear campaign, we decided to fight fire with fire. Although ancient writers from Plato to Erasmus cautioned that one should not add fire to fire, this warning is not incorporated in the idiom, which was first recorded in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus.
In addition to the idioms beginning with fire
- fire away
- fire off
- fire on all cylinders
- fire up
- add fuel to the fire
- ball of fire
- baptism of fire
- catch fire
- caught in the cross-fire
- draw fire
- fat is in the fire
- fight fire with fire
- get on (like a house afire)
- hang fire
- hold one’s fire
- hold someone’s feet to the fire
- irons in the fire
- light a fire under
- line of fire
- miss fire
- no smoke without fire
- on fire
- open fire
- out of the frying pan into the fire
- play with fire
- set on fire
- set the world on fire
- spread like wildfire
- trial by fire
- under fire
- where’s the fire
Also see underfiring.